Unfortunately for him, it could all end in the second tier. With the match goalless and the first of three added minutes having been played, Ainsworth switched off as the hosts launched a counter-attack, allowing Thistle midfielder Steven Lawless the space and time to drive the ball towards Connor Ripley’s goal.
His effort would almost certainly have been saved but for a malign deflection off Stephen McManus but Motherwell manager Mark McGhee and his players were in no doubt as to who was to blame for the defeat which left the Lanarkshire club in tenth place, just two points clear of Kilmarnock.
Ainsworth possesses pace and decent close control but he has never been renowned for his defensive work. His failure to track back on Tuesday led to him being on the wrong end of verbal assaults from the management and the older members of the squad in the dressing room afterwards.
It did not end there, though: clearly still traumatised by that experience, Ainsworth was despatched to the media room to highlight his part in the outcome and the 28-year-old sobbed as he did so, pausing occasionally in an attempt to compose himself. “Ultimately I have lost us the game,” he said. “There were a few harsh words in there but I have to take it all on board and apologise.
“I have got to do my job better. My positioning could have been better and the awareness of my man around me. I’ve got to concentrate. I feel sick for the boys because it’s cost us the game.
“It’s nothing to do with me coming on late because the manager has put his trust in me and I have gone and lost it for us.”
On the only previous occasion a player had broken down in front of me, the circumstances were rather different, with England goalkeeper David Seaman having a meltdown in the mixed zone in Shizuoka as he blamed himself for the loss of the goal by Ronaldinho which had seen Brazil claim a place in the semi-finals of the World Cup.
This was different. Supporters often believe that footballers do not share their passion but Ainsworth’s demeanour made it palpably obvious that he had been equally scarred by the decisive moment of his match.
“I definitely care about what happened,” he said. “I don’t want to be in the same situation as last season [when Motherwell beat Rangers in the play-off final] and, at the moment, we’re down there again. So I have listened to the manager and all the senior pros and I have taken it on board. It’s horrible and I feel sick. It’s football and it happens. If I’d been a couple of yards further back then we don’t lose the game.
“I’m distraught. I’ve got to look within myself. I have to take full responsibility. People were saying things in the dressing room and that’s right.
“I shook their hands and said ‘Thank you’ because it’s made me learn. If it had finished 0-0 it might not have been a bad point but it’s sickening. Now I’ve got to go again, stick in there and try to get in next week. I need to have a look at myself and that’s what I’ll do.
“I will go back into training and I will work my arse off. In a way, we would prefer if the next match was a league game, especially the position we are in.
“But, hopefully, we can put in a good performance against Inverness in the Scottish Cup, get a win there and then look to the league the week after.”